Friday, July 27, 2012

Next Generation Legal Search Engines: Westlaw Next, Lexis Advance and Bloomberg Law:The Good, The Bad and The Baffling

On Sunday,  July 22nd, I participated in the AALL program  on the Next Generation Of Legal Research Databases where co-panelists,  Jean Davis, Emily Marcum, Susan Nevelow Mart and Victoria Szymczak delivered the results of the survey we conducted regarding academic, law firm and government adoption of Lexis Advance, Westlaw Next and Bloomberg Law. A lively discussion was led by Victoria Szymczak which focused on a wide range of issues impacting each constituency. It would be impossible to summarize the entire program, but I have touched on some highlights below.

Law schools are challenged by the variety of platforms they now need to train students. Two years ago they taught only the and platforms. Now they are challenged with training students on the three new platforms: WestlawNext, Lexis Advance and Bloomnberg Law.

Law Firms are concerned about the variety of pricing schemes available under both the old and new platforms and never ending  challenges of cost recovery.

Government libraries reported that they are being ignored by Bloomberg.Law, although they see a strong interest in the product by judges.

The Publishers Respond The discussion was especially lively because each of the vendors had executives in the audience who were available to respond to questions from the panel or audience members. Brian Knudson , Vice President, Strategic Marketing, Large Law Firms at Thomson Reuters, Bob Hopen , Head of Sales and Customer Experience at Bloomberg Law and Marty Kilmer, VP of Product Platforms and Paul Speca VP of Law Schools represented Lexis Nexis.

Who Participated In the Survey?

The Good

The chart below shows the two most positive aspects of each service noted in private firm, law school or government libraries.

The Bad

The chart below shows the two most negative aspects of each services noted in private firm, law school or government libraries.

The Baffling

One of the more interesting discussions surrounded the mysterious algorithms driving the results of each advanced platform. The "secret sauce" behind each search engine is perhaps the one common trait shared by all the services which makes librarians of every stripe uncomfortable. Librarians who have highly refined expertise in refining and controlling search results are perplexed by the "black box" quality of the  search results.

In one of the most fascinating discussions Jean Davis presented slides showing how the search results varied between vendors but also within the same product when the same search was conducted two weeks later.

The Promising

It is somewhat unfair to compare the market penetration of the three products because each product entered the market at a different point over the past two years. Westlaw Next was available in February 2010,  Bloomberg Law had it's major relaunch in mid-2011 and Lexis Advance was released in early 2012. Those launch dates have had some impact on the results reported in the chart below.

Here are some observations about the Private Firm adoption data: shown below:

  • Younger lawyers ( 1st - 3rd year associates) are embracing the advanced platforms, regardless of whether they were exposed to them in law school.
  • Partners and Senior associates appear to be remaining loyal to and have not migrated to Westlaw Next. 
  • Lexis Advance is showing a somewhat equal adoption among midlevel, senior associates and partners.
  • Bloomberg Law appears to have the deepest penetration among partners. Presumably this may be due to the easy availability of client and industry data which can be easily retrieved from the Bloomberg "Go bar."

Works In Progress

As a former research librarian who is nostalgic for the Dialog Boolean search commands, I am somewhat uncomfortable with the mysterious algorithms that drive the advanced platforms.

However, I do recognize the benefits of the more simplified search protocols offered by the new platforms which sweep a broader universe of data and uncover results as a hierarchy enhanced with faceted terms and categories which can be explored and "re-mixed" on the fly.

Lexis Advance, Westlaw Next and Bloomberg Law will continue to evolve and improve. The executives at the meeting left with competitive and market insights which will no doubt spark and new round of  product enhancement as the legal giants "thrust and parry" for market dominance.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Breaking News: Thomson Reuters and Wolters Kluwer Law & Business Joining Forces on Current Awareness

Back in December I wrote a post speculating on the possibility of a Wolters Kluwer Thomson Reuters Merger. While no merger has come to pass, a new alliance was just announced.

I have been noticing some positive changes at Wolters Kluwer for the past few months. I have had several conversations with  Bob Lemmond the new Vice President & General Manager, Law & Business.
He seems genuinely interested in understanding customer needs in the very changed legal marketplace. He also assembled the first ever Law Librarian Advisory group. On the product side the new product RB Source is a slick and highly intuitive version of the Securities Act Handbook that I think bodes well for the future. Since RB Source is using a new digital platform. it is an encouraging sign that WK may be preparing to step away from the troubled Intelliconnect platform. So with today's announcement  that WK and Thomson Reuters are going to collaborate on  current awareness products we may be witnessing the beginning of another major reshuffling of the legal information market.
What's in it for Thomson Reuters? Perhaps this the long anticipated response to Bloomberg Law's acquisition of the Bureau of National Affairs in 2011.

Here is what is happening:
  • The new current awareness products on Westlaw will combine news, primary law such as statutes, judicial opinions and regulations, dockets, court wire content and other sources, and will be enhanced with legal analysis from attorney editors.
  • The first two products launched will include Wolters Kluwer’s unique current awareness dailies, Employment Law Daily and IP Law Daily, and secondary source content across a range of practice areas in law and business compliance will be added to WestlawNext.
  • Other new products that provide analysis and insight into key business topics are already being developed and will be rolled out over the next several quarters.
  •  Moving forward, on-point information will be pushed to customers where they are, synthesized into usable formats, with links to deeper sources. 

 Here is the press release:
Thomson Reuters and Wolters Kluwer Law & Business Joining Forces on Current Awareness
The companies have entered into an agreement to offer Wolters Kluwer current awareness products on Westlaw, joint development of new products, bolsters Westlaw offering and extends Wolters Kluwer’s reach
Eagan, MN, (July 18, 2012) –Thomson Reuters and Wolters Kluwer Law & Business will join forces to offer select Wolters Kluwer current awareness content on Thomson Reuters Westlaw online legal research platforms. The exclusive agreement will add Wolters Kluwer’s current awareness products – daily awareness of breaking legal developments which have been analyzed and contextualized by attorney-editors – to the comprehensive legal research databases, news and tools on Westlaw. The two businesses also will collaborate on current awareness product development.

The new current awareness products on Westlaw will combine news, primary law such as statutes, judicial opinions and regulations, dockets, court wire content and other sources, and will be enhanced with legal analysis from attorney editors. The first two products launched will include Wolters Kluwer’s unique current awareness dailies, Employment Law Daily and IP Law Daily, and secondary source content across a range of practice areas in law and business compliance will be added to WestlawNext. Other new products that provide analysis and insight into key business topics are already being developed and will be rolled out over the next several quarters. Moving forward, on-point information will be pushed to customers where they are, synthesized into usable formats, with links to deeper sources.

The two businesses see an opportunity to leverage best-in-class analytical and authoritative Wolters Kluwer Law & Business content; current Westlaw news content, including more than 12,000 databases of news in the Thomson Reuters Newsroom collection and exclusive reporting from Reuters News; and the market-leading primary and analytical content on Westlaw, to bring a new level of market insight to the current awareness marketplace.

According to Leann Blanchfield, vice president of Product Development at Thomson Reuters, current awareness information is a key part of every attorney’s workflow. It helps legal professionals stay up to speed in today’s highly competitive environment, and attorneys also rely on news, analysis and insight to identify clients and create winning pitches. “Wolters Kluwer Law & Business current awareness content is unique and indispensable to busy lawyers who require expert analysis and contextualization of rapidly-changing areas of the law,” said Blanchfield. “Its current awareness products provide original, attorney-authored analysis that puts context around breaking legal developments. They are seen as an essential tool to help busy lawyers stay up-to-date on vital developments in their field. Working together, Thomson Reuters and Wolters Kluwer will create a unique marriage between current awareness and deep research for the legal marketplace.”

“Wolters Kluwer’s current awareness legal dailies are all created by attorneys for attorneys, and are an essential tool for lawyers to put breaking legal news, decisions, and rulemaking in broad context and apply the industry’s leading level of analysis to highly complex and rapidly-changing areas of the law,” said Robert Lemmond, vice president of the Legal Markets Group at Wolters Kluwer. “This collaborative relationship with Thomson Reuters will enable us to deliver breaking news content to the entire family of Westlaw customers, and we are looking forward to working with the Thomson Reuters team to develop new current awareness products for legal professionals that allow them to work more efficiently.”

Lemmond said the sweet spot for the market is the convergence of current awareness and deep primary and analytical content. “We are uniquely positioned to bring together domain expertise with specialized proprietary content, and add the insights of a seasoned team of attorney editors and analysts,” he said.

Blanchfield agreed. "The combination of Wolters Kluwer's reporting depth and domain expertise, with the breadth of Thomson Reuters news and current awareness capabilities and the insight and content of the Westlaw research service is quite powerful. For customers, it will mean a current awareness offering that promises an entirely new level of insight and foresight. We’re excited to be working together.”


Wolters Kluwer Law & Business is a leading provider of research products and software solutions in key specialty areas for legal and business professionals, as well as casebooks and study aids for law students. Its major product lines include Aspen Publishers, CCH, Kluwer Law International and Loislaw. Its markets include health care organizations, law firms, law schools, corporate counsel and professionals requiring legal and compliance information. Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, a unit of Wolters Kluwer, is based in New York City and Riverwoods, IL.


Thomson Reuters is the world's leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals. We combine industry expertise with innovative technology to deliver critical information to leading decision makers in the financial and risk, legal, tax and accounting, intellectual property and science and media markets, powered by the world's most trusted news organization. With headquarters in New York and major operations in London and Eagan, Minnesota, Thomson Reuters employs approximately 60,000 people and operates in over 100 countries. For more information, go to


Scott Augustin
Thomson Reuters
+1 612 226 5084

Amy Wolfcale
Wolters Kluwer Law & Business

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Law Libraries Transformed:Crowded Collaboration and Social Solitude (The Apple Store vs The Commons)

Crowded Collaboration c.c.
In a recent Bloomberg interview, I speculated that in the future, law  libraries may look like Apple Stores. My point was that while we may replace law books with desktop virtual libraries, the need for  spaces for  research consultation, collaboration and "just in time learning" will continue.  As I mentioned in an earlier post  on strategic interventions using an iPad, lawyers are facing "customization overload" and  we should be prepared to "just say yes" and offer concierge services which resolve problems and offer solutions enabling lawyers to focus on core client support activities.

What Do Lawyers Need? About 12 years ago in preparation for a library redesign, I surveyed lawyers regarding the new library space. Lawyers wanted 1) clearly designated place where they knew they could find people to help them and 2) a quiet space where they could work... away from their offices... in proximity to other lawyers... although not necessarily talking to them. Note the top requirement was not books but access to people with expertise - research librarians. Today I would describe these design concepts as "crowded collaboration" and "social solitude."

Examples of these concepts have surfaced recently in press pieces about the transformation of law firm space.

Social Solitude. Yesterday there was an article about WilmerHale's New Office in the World Trade Center. The architect highlighted the creation of a new "library space" referred to as "The Commons:"

"One example of how the new offices differ from the old: the space traditionally known as the library is called the "Commons." While it does contain some books, it also has room for lawyers to work remotely with wireless Internet, take a break with a Wii video game system, and sip a latte at the coffee bar."

OK, I think the Wii bit too cute and uncomfortably reminiscent of the now defunct Foosball rooms that appeared in law firms before the bust. Since I spent 4 years sneaking my coffee cups into the Fordham Law Library... I can only say "amen" to the library coffee bar.

Sadly there is no mention of research support staff, as if both technology and research were completely intuitive and immune from the need for expert support. Did the Commons design omit the most vital component of the law library - the law librarian? I doubt it... but this was not an important feature in the architect's eyes. Need I say... "a Wii is no substitute for a research expert."

Technology Can Be as Frustrating as it Can be Enabling  Let's face it self service is about shifting work from one group to another. Since lawyers are the primary drivers of revenue we have to carefully assess how the drive to "self service" may be impairing or enabling a lawyer. While research remains primarily an intellectual exercise and not a technological process, there are so many new platforms, passwords and profiles that libraries by any name should be viewed as  spaces for human intervention, collaboration and consultation. These value enhancing qualities should  not be lost in the drive to reduce space. There was recently a story "Self check out on the Wane" about how grocery stores had begun to remove scanners because the technology wasn't as reliable and intuitive as expected. Customers decided it was simply quicker and preferable to deal with a human being who could instantly resolve any technical problems or address other issues.

Crowded Collaboration I have been wildly fascinated by the crowds in the Apple Store since my first visit. I think that the attraction of the Apple Store is not merely the hip design of the products, but the sheer number of apple employees who are available to direct, consult and troubleshoot. There is also The Genius Bar where you get a real training session and which requires a payment and an appointment.
The Social Life of Space In the rush to shrink libraries and reduce law firm real estate spending, planners should be careful not to overlook the social life of space.

The paradox of technology is that it seems to simultaneously escalate both efficiency and complexity. We are constantly driving change into a community of lawyers where there is no universal consensus of what (product technology, platform, interface ) is truly intuitive and which is "not worth the effort." Many research functions have gotten easier over the past decades. With Google you can always find something. In high stakes litigation you must find "the right thing." Complex research is not going to be as easy as flipping a light switch. Even simple research tasks are not so easily replicated by technology.

Researchers Can't be Replaced by Siri. Yesterday a there was an article in the New York Times "The Initial Romance with Apple's Siri Goes Sour " about the voice activated research assistant. The article illustrates the frustrating short comings of this innovative technology.  Author Nick Bilton writes that since last summer "we have had some major communication issues. She frequently misunderstands my questions, Sometimes she is just unavailable. Often, she responds with the same repetitive statement."

Firms should consider how to balance and accommodate the two types of space, noisy and crowded collaboration space as well as  quiet spaces of social solitude.

In case you missed it -- here is a link to the Bloomberg interview where I discuss the future of law libraries.

July 9 (Bloomberg) — Law firms are moving in the direction of having libraries the “size of a phone booth,” as research has moved from a central location to the attorney’s desktop, says DLA Piper’s Director of Research Services and Libraries Jean O’Grady. Libraries are becoming more like the retail hubs of Apple, “a place where people go to collaborate and learn how to do things more efficiently,” she tells Bloomberg Law’s Spencer Mazyck. That means librarians increasingly have to focus on highly specialized research, so law firms can deliver more value to clients, she says.
O'Grady: Law Firm Libraries Becoming Like Apple Stores.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

ALM 2012 Law Library Survey: Budgets, Billables, Insourcing and Outsourcing Up. Online Cost Recovery Down. Embedding and eBooks Emerge

Yesterday American Lawyer Media Legal Intelligence released the 2012 Law Librarian Survey data.

The ALM research staff has worked closely with the Private Law Library community to improve the precision and relevance of the questions presented in this survey.  I look forward to the release of the American Lawyer article interpreting the data and the commentary received from the library community. (Thanks to Nina Platt for pointing me to the link added above.)

All ALM Reports Are Not Created Equal. ALM's timing was impeccable because I was still pondering an appropriate response to another recent ALM report  "Finding the Right Balance: Non attorney Staffing in Law Firms."  My working title for the post was "Lies, statistics and asking the wrong questions to the wrong people." The problem with that report was that it purported to be measuring the strategic value of library services in law firms. However the vast majority of the firms (76%) who responded were too small to have a professional librarian let alone a library that was staffed to provide strategic value.  Yet they asked the question and they reported the response which -- no surprise-- indicated that these non-staffed libraries were not delivering high strategic value.  As my kids would say "D-u-u-u-u-h." The bigger question is - why weren't the editors of that report talking to the editors who were  hard at work crafting the annual Law Library Survey to find out about asking a qualifying question such as " Do you have a professional librarian?" If not skip the rest of the questions about library services.

A Sampling of Key Trends From the 2012 Law Library Survey:

Librarians: AFA/Insourcing Trend in Practice Support

Firms appear to be recognizing the value and expertise of research staff in delivering lower cost/ high value results to clients. The trends in the 2012 survey reports:
  • 2011 saw increases in billable rates for research staff
  • In 2011 there was a 25% increase in researcher billable hours over 2010
  • There was a corresponding 25% increase in average revenue generated by the research staff in 2011.
  • 59% believe they are performing work formerly done by associates.
Outsourcing and Centralization

Library Directors are spearheading initiatives to streamline library operations through centralization and outsourcing administrative operations. The trend continued to increase in 2011.
  • 91% centralize digital content procurement
  • 91% centralize cataloging and library systems
  • 81% centralize acquisition of print resources
  • 68% report outsourcing at least one function
Research Support

64% of respondents report the centralization of research. It is not clear how many are referring to a centralized staffing location or alternatively to a virtual centralization which creates a unified workflow across multiple locations. But one obvious benefit of centralized virtual research is expanding the hours of coverage by taking advantage of time zone differences. Additional research support findings include:
  • 56% report that the Library is the main source of competitive intelligence.
  • 52% report that the library is the main source of marketing research
  • 14% have begun "embedding" librarians as specialists assigned to specific practice groups.
The Long Slow Death of Cost Recovery

In 2008 70% of the firms reported that they recovered more than 60% of their online costs in client charges. This number decreased a whopping 41% in 3 years. Only 29% reported recovering more than 60% of their online costs through chargebacks.

Budgets Recovering

For the second year in a row there was a double digit increase in the number of libraries reporting that their budgets had increased. This year 55% of firms were increasing their budgets, up from 41% in 2010 and 30% in 2009.

New Issues and Questions
  • Bloomberg was treated as a peer to Lexis and Westlaw in the questions about online research costs.
  • Adoption of Online Monitoring products, news aggregation products and Integrated Library systems were queried for the first time.
  • eBook purchases increased 8%. In fairness the products and pricing regimes are not completely resolved as of 2012 so we need to keep watching this one.
Library Director's Rule Contract Negotiations

Firms recognize the special expertise of Library Directors in high ticket and complex licencing negotiations. 96% of the firms have kept this responsibility in the hands of the Library Director. It is unfortunate that this is the first year the survey addresses this question. Consultants which were "the rage" several years ago take the lead in only 3% of the firms responding. It may be that the extra cost of the consultant did not offer a true "value proposition." The presence of consultants may be further diminished if more vendors follow the Bloomberg Law lead and establish a single price formula for all subscribers.

There is a lot more detail and many other issues addressed in the full report. I look forward to the ALM Survey presentation at the upcoming AALL Annual conference in Boston.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Trip the to Supermarket, an iPad, a KM Strategy and a Carton of free eggs!

I have recently been puzzling about how to use iPads to improve service delivery. Who knew I would get some insights on a trip to the grocery store?

Safway's New Customization Initiative

My local Safeway was introducing the "Just for u" program. They positioned an employee holding an iPad near the store entrance. They were, in other words initiating a strategic intervention, to encourage shoppers to personalize their shopping profiles. Of course they could badger me with emails, which I likely ignore, but by placing a human being holding an iPad (i.e. ready willing and able to help) in my path, they got my attention. The Safeway employee was able to build my custom "Just for u " profile. and able to download the app right onto my phone in about 2 minutes.  I will get alerts when my favorite products are on sale, ,they will load coupons and special deals  on my loyalty account and I walked away with a free carton of eggs as a bonus for signing up.

If we had researchers and KM professionals conduct outreach using  iPads, what initiatives should we promote? Some of the possibilities include:

  • Demonstrate ebook features with the goal of migrating lawyers off of print
  • Convert lawyers from print to digital newsletter delivery
  • Demonstrate new KM drafting products 
  • Roving research. Answer research questions 
  • Provide "just in time" training
  • Interview lawyers to create custom information profiles
 But the Safeway "Just For U" initiative focused my attention on the endless challenge of  improving and updating personalized news and legal monitoring for lawyers.

The Myth of the End User Dashboard Customized monitoring is an endless challenge. Lawyers' needs are not static, clients change, issues change, products change. Customized monitoring is hot. Over the past year I have fielded innumerable pitches from a variety of vendors hawking the latest and greatest custom monitoring platform. One feature that most share is based on the notion that lawyers want to l learn to manage their alerts in a customized platform. They presume that lawyers want and are willing to learn "to drive" a custom alerts platform.

The Power of Human Intervention. I fear that we are all facing a bit of "customization fatigue." It would be daunting to even estimate how many more personalized passwords  and account setups we will all be forced create over the coming decade. The central lesson of the "Safeway experience" for me was how a simple human intervention overcame all resistance. It reinforced my gut feeling that we should recognize "dashboard fatigue" and  simply offer lawyers the option of a "chauffeur ride" to a more efficient process. Roving KM professionals armed with iPads can build more lawyer efficiency  in two minutes than a year of email reminders to "log in" to a new product unassisted.